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To quit my PhD

(55 Posts)
RockChicken1 Sun 23-Jun-13 02:05:12

I'm just over two years in and I have been feeling like this for the last 6 months. I have no motivation whatsoever right now and I'm stuck in a cycle of guilt and apathy. It's so frustrating because I've never felt like this before, I worked really hard on my first degree and my masters and got good results. I just feel stupid and lazy. It's even harder to motivate myself as I know what I want to do career wise now and I don't need a PhD to do it. A few people I have sp

RockChicken1 Sun 23-Jun-13 02:07:14

Oops. A few people I have spoken to about it said I should just stick it out, but I don't think I can. I walk to work everyday not caring if I get hit by a bus. I honestly feel like its driving me crazy.

CounselorTroi Sun 23-Jun-13 02:08:00

I well remember the guilt/apathy/can't be arsed/panic/remorse cycle. I hated every minute of my PhD but I'm very very ad I didn't quit as I don't think I would have gotten over it.

Can you take some time off ?

StuntGirl Sun 23-Jun-13 02:08:23

How long do you have left on it? And could it open further doors for you in the future if you do complete it?

MorganMummy Sun 23-Jun-13 02:08:47

Don't do anything that makes you feel that way! Could you put it on hold, take a sabbatical or do it part-time?

fabergeegg Sun 23-Jun-13 02:09:34

I quit mine and regretted it since. There will never again be three year block of time that I could give to it. It seems decadently self-indulgent to even wish for it, now that I'm knee deep in muslin squares and dog hair. Given that you're so far in, you almost certainly won't look back and regret finishing it. But there's a good chance you'll regret walking away, since two years work wasted might seem worse than one year's 'unnecessary' work.

And it screws your CV up which is not good for any career.

RockChicken1 Sun 23-Jun-13 02:18:20

Wow thanks for the quick replies. I really don't think it will open doors to me in the future, given the career I want to go into. I have a year of funding left then a year to write up unfunded. However at the moment I hardly have anything to write up as most experiments have failed. I guess I've become really disillusioned with academia, I find it quite bitchy and full of over inflated egos. I know I may end up regretting it in the future however all I can think about at the moment is the relief I'd feel walking away.

RockChicken1 Sun 23-Jun-13 02:20:08

Oh and I was thinking of asking my supervisor if I could go part-time but I think you can only switch to part-time in your first two years.

SugarandSpice126 Sun 23-Jun-13 02:27:33

Academia is so bitchy! It drove me mad... It is completely normal to get disillusioned and lacking in motivation during a PhD. It's hard to tell whether you're feeling this just because it's a long and extremely difficult process, or because of rational feelings that the result isn't worth it. Could you talk to your supervisor about your topic? Seeing as you're already two years in though, you could try and stick it out (though not if it continues to cost you your mental health...nothing's worth that).

I've come across lots of excellent online forums for PhD/dissertations, where you can see that everyone else is feeling the same as you do. It can feel very isolated and it's hard to see the end of it.

Good luck, you're not alone, and make the right decision for you.

drfayray Sun 23-Jun-13 02:28:18

Hi RockChicken1, I had the most awful time with mine and it took me much longer than expected. But I am so glad I stuck it out even though I am now changing my career and going back into something that my PhD is not relevant but still useful.

I had to change universities (ex was headhunted for another post and we moved states -Australia- ), had supervisors from Hell, changed supervisors, had a breakdown etc etc BUT because I am a stubborn woman, did not give up although I wanted to many times. Can you take a leave of absence? I did for 6 months and it gave me some space to breathe.

Call me shallow but I like being DR FayRay grin. My children are proud of me for not giving up - have actually said so to me smile.

You sound like you need a bit of a break from it.

And whatever, you decide to do, good luck with it all.

AgentZigzag Sun 23-Jun-13 02:42:32

I know what it feels like when you say 'I walk to work everyday not caring if I get hit by a bus.' and that's scary shit. For me it was being in a situation where I'd let people down whatever I decided to do, but the situation made me so ill that I knew I couldn't carry on. So I wanted 'fate' to take it out of my hands and resolve it, even if it meant I'd be seriously hurt/dead. The alternative of carrying on was equally as painful.

If you genuinely feel that, stop doing the Phd and hang the consequences.

Nothing is worth you feeling that you'd rather get run over than carry on as you are.


It's easy for other people to say carry on because they haven't got to live it.

You are not stupid and lazy in the slightest, you've done something that hasn't worked out as you thought it might <shrug> just go on and be the best you can in the career you know is right.

You haven't failed by not finishing, you're taking the choice to move on to something better.

Make that decision for yourself rather than other people.

complexnumber Sun 23-Jun-13 02:48:35

But please! Remember what it will feel like to be on a plane when the attendants call out in panic...

'Is there a doctor on the plane?!'
, and you'll be able to calmly state, 'Well actually there is, Dr Rock is right before you'

How cool will that be?

AgentZigzag Sun 23-Jun-13 03:05:57

Being called Dr Rock would fucking ROCK!

I withdraw my previous post.


redwellybluewelly Sun 23-Jun-13 03:10:05

Theres a thread in Chat for academic/phd people - you may get some very sound advice there too.

I'm currently on maternity leave from my fully funded phd. I have also almost given up twice, it is fucking hard to stay motivated and the six month slimp and the one as I came up to eighteen months in were tough. I accessed confidential university counselling to help and I (second slump) intercalated for a month as I found the pressure too much.

nothing as said above is worth becoming suicidal over, people quit phds because they are lonely and at times mundane and seem pointless. My thoughts are;

1. What inspired you to do this phd? Can you get that initial sense of passion back? Universities (and research councils) don't like to lose students as rhey have invested so much in you, your supervisory team shouldn't have let you flounder or get to this stage without a reasonable amount material.

2. Who can you talk to? What is your supervisory team like? Do you have friends or a partner to confide in? Can you take a break? When did you last take a holiday?

3. What other options are there for work in the future? I don't want to sell my soul to academia either - I'm interested on staying on for one or.maybe two years but I also fully intend to maintain links with industry as well - have you thought about what you could do to earn money?

redwellybluewelly Sun 23-Jun-13 03:11:34

Apologies for typos - BFing the latest addition

RockChicken1 Sun 23-Jun-13 03:15:01

Complexnumber thanks for making me laugh, really needed that. Zigzag it's nice to hear from someone that understands how I'm feeling. I haven't told anyone in rl exactly how desperate I feel, just that I want to quit. I haven't slept more than a couple of hours for the past month or so, I just lie awake worrying. Drfayray I think I really do need a break, and maybe that would help me to see things more objectively? Sugar I'm trying to work up the courage to speak to my supervisor about this. She's really lovely and had been very supportive in the past (I lost both of my grandmas this year, and she was great), however it makes it harder in a way. Because I really get on with her I don't want to disappoint her.

AgentZigzag Sun 23-Jun-13 03:23:28

Fuck not wanting to disappoint anyone else.

If you told them exactly how you felt, every single person you told would advise you to pack it in and be happy doing something else.

Cliched, but you've only got one crack at your life, why waste two years doing something that's keeping you awake at night worrying about other peoples expectations of you, and where you'd prefer to be mown down by a bus than let those people down.

Tell them.

They'll accept it, maybe make a few sympathetic noises, but that's only because they'll be thinking of how sad you might be to not finish. The jumping for joy relief you'll feel at getting out of the prison of it will more than compensate.

willowstar Sun 23-Jun-13 03:26:05

Hello, how you are feeling doesn't seem that unusual to phd almost killed me...I ended up with anxiety driven depression...look it up, sound familiar? Got some antidepressants, somehow got through it and got my phd. It can be so stressful and isolating. I am so so so glad I finished mine. When I was off on maternity leave couple of years afterwards I struggled again and lost all confidence and it helped to know that I had done it and that there was this other me who could do things. Honestly, if u knew me in real life u would have no idea I went through all that. Anyway, I am in academia so it matters that I have it. Good luck whatever you do.

RockChicken1 Sun 23-Jun-13 03:32:04

Redwelly I wanted to do a phd because I loved science and wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to do. I thought because I had got a strong first and sailed through my masters I would be able to manage a phd. I'm not saying that I didn't realise it would be hard work, just that I'd be capable of it. I've spoken to my dp and my mum about how I feel. My dp has been really supportive and I know would support whatever decision I make. My mum's response was that she'd be very disappointed in me if I gave up, not particularly helpful.
Part of the reason I don't have much data right now is because I have been waiting for about 8 months for samples from my industry partner. It's driven me crazy waiting and not being able to do much work and in that time I've lost all my motivation. I'm fully funded so loss of income is a concern. If I leave I plan to tutor full time until I can get my ideal job. I've done this in the past and earned twice as much as I do now.

BlogOnTheTyne Sun 23-Jun-13 06:06:08

Almost 30 yrs ago, I gave up a PhD. It was the complete anathema of everything expected of me by family, friends and the academics around me and probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was the 'wrong' PhD subject for me and I wasn't enjoying it and also, 'life' was opening up for me, outside the 'high achieving' path I'd been on.

Decades later, not having a PhD hasn't stopped me doing anything at all I've wanted to do. Back then, within the 'smaller' world in which I lived, it felt like the worst thing in the world to drop out and disappointing my parents, still feels so awful.

However, stepping outside that closeted existence and finding that there were other paths to getting where I wanted to go, was a revelation.

I do admit to regretting not having the Dr title but it hasn't made any difference career-wise at all.

I think you need to decide if this is just one of the normal and almost universal 'lows' that happen when you're at that level, academically and having to be entirely - almost - independently driven - or whether this is simply not the right PhD or not the right path for you at this point in life.

You could so a PhD later on, even if it's harder to find that kind of time. You can do PhDs part-time or through different institutions, with more flexibility. You don't HAVE to continue on the expected path right now from one degree to another. There are lots of other ways to go.

I think the hardest thing could be your mum's disappointment. If you decide to give up for now, can you tell her that your academic track record, to date, shows you have plenty of potential to do a PhD at some point, if that feels right for you but right now is not the time? Help her to understand that she's supported you all the way so far and if you divert from her expectations, it doesn't at all mean that you're letting her down. It means that you're making a mature and wise decision at this point in life.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Either way, there's not right or wrong or absolutes. People achieve what they want to do in all kinds of ways and at all stages of life and I believe it's never too late. I'm now in my 50s and may still do a PhD at some point!

justwondering72 Sun 23-Jun-13 07:04:45

I think everyone doing a phd feels as you do sometimes. I decided fairly early in during mine that academia was not where I wanted to be, so it was hard to keep putting in the effort. I think what kept me going was what a pp said - there was unlikely to be a single block of 3-4 years where I could commit to doing if ever again, if I was working and having a family. So the now or never feeling pushed me on to complete. I've never used my phd as such but I really am proud of completing it.

My sister was crippled with guilt at the thought of walking away from hers, close to suicidal, and mostly at the thought of disappointing our parents- who would of course have been horrified that she was feeling that way. She did limp over the finishing line in the end but it was a hideous few years for her. In many ways I wish she had just walked away from it.

No phd is worth your life. When you are embroiled in one its like the world narrows down to focus on The Phd. But the world is a lot bigger than that, hard though it is to see at the time.

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Sun 23-Jun-13 07:16:29

2 questions:

Do you have reimburse your funding if you drop out?

Can you transform your phD in a MPhil? and pass your viva now?

It won't hinder you not to have one, especially if you have a good reason for stopping. Saying that your industrial partners are not involved as they should, waisting your time, is a good reason to me!

HearMyRoar Sun 23-Jun-13 07:29:42

I stopped my PhD for similar reasons. I had planned on going into academia but when I actually did some teaching I hated it (well, I didn't mind the actual teaching but marking made me want to stab my eyes out). I was part time and got offered a really great opportunity in my other job but knew I couldn't do it and do the PhD at the same time.

I took a year out at first, I think you can do this even if you are funded though I was paying myself so you'd need to check. It meant I knew if I realised I did really love the studying I could go back. Once I reached the end of the year I knew giving it up was the right choice.

I don't regret it at all. I might go and restart when I retire or something just for fun but I made the right choice for my sanity and my career.

chezchaos Sun 23-Jun-13 07:39:39

I was there a few years ago. It turned out my supervisor had lost interest in me and wasn't really making an effort to support me in moving forward. I was PT and in year 7 she moved to another Uni and advised I was one of the students she wouldn't be taking with her!! I found another supervisor who looked at my research with a fresh eye and complete transformed the way I approached it. I finally completed although I regret the 'lost years' of demotivating work that ruined my free time.

Could you have a heart to heart with your supervisor about someone else taking an external view of your research and your plans for progressing it? Although I don't need a PhD I work in HE and my work increasingly use my title to add 'authenticity' to my work when it's submitted to academics so I am seeing benefits.

sweettooth99 Sun 23-Jun-13 07:47:01

My PhD is the hardest thing I have ever done. Never met so many over inflated toss pots. Academia is not for me.

I had therapy the whole way through mine to cope with all that you are talking about and ended up on beta blockers for a bit to deal with the anxiety. I guess what I'm trying to say to you is a. You are not alone in feeling this way, 2. Take practical steps to turn the situation round, including even making a complaint about industry partners.

don't lose sight of all your own strengths. good luck I hope you feel much better soon :-)

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